Joshua Cocks studied Urban Horticulture… in fact, he’s still studying it; opting to undertake his University of Melbourne Associates Degree part-time so he can gain practical experience in the field along the way!
It’s an approach that has paid off dividends. As part of this degree, Josh was required to undertake an internship. Approaching Eckersley Garden Architecture through mutual connections (he’d previously laboured for his Dad’s business Parterre Landscapes), he scored a one-day-a-week gig. At the same time, he worked at Warner’s Nurseries in the advanced tree potting team.
Both jobs set him up with invaluable horticultural and construction skills he utilises each day as a Senior Landscape Designer at E-ga. ‘The practical knowledge I have gained over the years has been so influential in the success of my current role, and also helped me to better grasp what we are studying,’ he tells.
Along this career journey, the 26-year-old has built genuine connections with his industry, and he’s learnt to value the opportunities these can present. We recently caught up with Joshua, on a site visit to an amazing new project he’s been working on (stay tuned for a closer look at this garden in a few weeks)…
The most important verb in the get-your-dream-job lexicon is…
…relationships. I believe that the relationships that you build through your life are the most important factor in finding your dream job… and being happy in it.
Without being close to my Dad and having the chance to work for him, I wouldn’t have met the guys from E-ga. Through this relationship, I was able to get my foot in the door to the landscape design industry. Then also, without becoming great friends with my colleagues, working in our small office and through the design process would be a much more difficult task.
Thirdly, a lot of the relationships I have built through working in landscape design have inspired my designs. For example, going to industry nights/event to see the work of other landscape designers and architects is always really inspiring.
I think referrals are almost everything; you can trust a recommendation like that more than a resume (which people can really write anything on). Many of my colleagues at E-ga have come to the business through a similar process too.
I landed this job by…
…being introduced to the E-ga crew while working for my father’s business (he has been constructing E-ga gardens for almost 20 years!).
It sort of sounds like the job was just handed to me, but I don’t think I would still be here, five years down the track, if I didn’t have anything to offer.
Getting jobs these days is all about being there at the right time, or already having your foot in the door.
A typical day for me involves…
My typical day generally begins by being woken up by my hungry fur-baby (Rocky) who sleeps on the end of the bed. This is followed by, most importantly, coffee and a walk around the streets of Clifton Hill – walking Rocky in the morning is most important or he’s a menace once cooped up in the office for the day.
Then it’s a run, cycle, train or drive to Richmond, where our office is located. My choice of transport is dependant on what my day has in store for me!
The work day starts at 8am, which seems to be a little bit before a lot of other businesses open up, allowing for some free time to catch up on emails. From there, it’s designing/drafting, office meetings, and communicating with clients, contractors, suppliers and architects. There are a lot of other tasks that vary day to day, like site meetings, site analysis, and trips to visit product suppliers, like plant nurseries and other material suppliers.
I have recently taken up the job of revisiting projects that have been completed, to take photos for our social media or just for our records. I am still quite a novice when it comes to the camera, but I am finding that being able to go spend a few hours shooting a garden isn’t just improving my photography skills, it’s also helping me to improve my designing as well. I’m able to see an established plant palette or aged materials and whether they work – something you don’t get to see on paper when you are drawing.
The most rewarding part of my job is…
Other than getting to bring to life your designs and have a client and others able to experience and appreciate it… I would also have to say it’s putting your head together with other people who you enjoy working alongside to bring ideas to fruition. One particular and memorable example of this is when I worked with my colleagues Rupert and Clare for the 2018 Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show. Together we brought to life our ‘Australian Case Study Garden’ (or ‘A Mongrel’, as we liked to call it). Much to our disbelief, we ended up winning the Best In Show, a Gold Medal and the Best Use of Plant Life awards.
On the other hand, the most challenging aspect is…
…the trial and error of planting design. We are working with a living medium, which is as rewarding as it is challenging.
Plants are living organisms, and have specific requirements for survival. It’s not as simple as throwing two plants in together because aesthetically they look great side-by-side. There are considerations of soil type, light aspects, and then upkeep… just some of the important factors in making our designs really work.
The culture of my workplace is…
Some days you can get trapped in the rambles of conversation, and other days everyone knows how to sit down, focus on work and listen to the music playing throughout the office. Overall we are a very collaborative and pretty free-flowing team. If anyone is in need of information it is easy to go and ask the person you know has better knowledge of the matter, or if you have big ideas that you aren’t quite sold on, there is always someone there you can bounce that off and get fair and honest feedback.
Another important part of our workplace culture is the space we work in. We are lucky enough to have multiple areas where we can get work completed, take meetings with clients, get away from the desk (into either the lunch space or our courtyard garden). The office is also dog-friendly, which means Rocky is welcome to come to work whenever it works with my plans… generally, he makes the call to get up for work or not in the morning.
My favourite plant/landscape design element is…
Eriobotrya japonica or the loquat.
The Loquat tree has beautiful glossy, deep green leaves and bears delicious fruit. But it is not my favourite for design purposes…
This is my favourite plant because it reminds me of my childhood. We had a giant loquat tree in our back garden which we built a tree house in. My sister, brother and I would spend hours sitting up top eating all the loquats. This was always a regrettable decision, as we would have horrible stomach pains afterwards. But we would still do this every time the tree came into fruit.
Over the years, my career has changed…
I have moved in my role, from an assistant designer up to a senior designer. With this, I have made major improvements in my ability to present and speak to clients (public speaking has always been hard for me). My design style has evolved over the years through uncovering new sources of inspiration from working closely with others and experiencing different projects and other designers’ works.
In the next five years, I’d like to…
… explore more of Australia, the parts that I haven’t explored like the southern parts of the West Coast and deeper into Kakadu. I spent a lot of my childhood travelling all over Australia with my parents; this country is so vast I still have loads to see and many favourite spots to revisit.
That said, I’d also like to explore more of the world and revisit Southeast Asia and Southern India. Plus expand on my studies into Landscape Architecture to then maybe work on broader scale projects and public realm landscapes. And I also have dreams working overseas in landscape design!
He is also studying Urban Horticulture University of Melbourne Associates Degree part-time. Photo – Caitlin Mills.
‘A lot of the relationships I have built through working in landscape design have inspired my designs,’ tells Josh. Photo – Caitlin Mills.
In E-ga’s Richmond office with Scott. Photo – Caitlin Mills.
The 26-year-old always knew he wanted to work in landscape design. Photo – Caitlin Mills.
On location at a wow-factor Melbourne garden Josh has been working on. Photo – Caitlin Mills.
Josh, Rocky and E-ga colleague Emily. Photo – Caitlin Mills.
Garden details. Photo – Caitlin Mills.
Josh has found that spending a few hours shooting a garden isn’t just improving his photography skills it’s also helping to improve his designing. Photo – Caitlin Mills.